I’m making Blog posts at Disability Arts online occasionally too – this is about my process with two poems already posted here : grace (12th May 2020), crossposting now:
I plan to visit here occasionally to share some of my writing process. Mostly thinking then, or my version of that, but maybe sometimes some practical ideas.
To help my writing I try to read as much as I can. Partly this is to make up for lost time in a number of ways. Partly it’s the times, all those experts on tv and radio, which almost always leave me with the idea I should have read it all and they most likely have. But also as I am a writer, I enjoy it (mostly).
I could write loads about reading, another time. But one strand of that reading in recent years has been spiritual and mythological. That’s included exploring Jung and his ideas but also reading about Buddhism (especially Shunryu Suzuki), Tolstoy’s ideas (especially his Wise Thoughts for Every day) and others. I noticed a great benefit following those wise thoughts one year. I reread them with the year, day by day, last year too. I also found another similar book, You are the Beloved by Henri Nouwen with daily readings from his writings having greatly enjoyed another of his books in late 2018.
They really helped and I’ve noticed not reading them daily this year and am compensating, but can always just start them again. Do they count as books of hours, when their thoughts go by day? I’ll have to look into that.
This reading really nourished my writing, not to mention me. But that’s a long intro into what I thought might be of interest. I’m not a church goer, though I may explore that. The Church view of trans issues is not a great encourager. But as I read Nouwen I came across this quote from Martin Luther:
“Grace is the experience of being delivered from experience.”
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. You are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living . John Murray Press. Kindle Edition.
How about that. I found it powerful, reminding me of something that seemed far from daily living. It stayed with me. Liberating, perhaps. Though not the same as finding grace, maybe a step towards it, just thinking it through makes me feel good.
It also helped a lot with some experiences as I was exploring being trans. I wrote
‘the experience of being delivered from experience’, Martin Luther
a figure awaiting her own sculptress
to deliver her from stone retreat
knows a dream – sun marbled skin uncovered
ease of limbs free to be observed
simply present, still, in every moment
truth ringing through her pose
Gender not determined by this, just how it came to me.
(A. H / K. H-H (7th November 2019) – published on my A Blind Catch In The Sun blog: )
Later in the year I was in a group that read Seamus Heaney’s District and Circle. But it was not until we reread it this year that I realised how similar and helpful I find a line he used that he borrowed, I believe from Czeslaw Milosz (whom I’ve not yet read). The poem is ‘The Tollund Man in Springtime’ and the line opens the fourth sonnet length stanza:
“‘The soul exceeds its circumstances.’ Yes.”
Heaney, Seamus. from ‘The Tollund Man in Springtime’ in District and Circle p56.
I’d quote more but for this piece it’s fine to stay with that. Though when I compared this quote to Luther on grace I was not surprised to see how hopeful and full of a grace the later parts of this poem seem to me. It’s like a cornerstone or a fountain of possibility.
So, why am I telling you this? You’ve probably realised already. These ideas seem so far removed from a lot of our life now. For me as a survivor (so far) of the mental health system (which I must defend against myself in some ways too – it has helped in some ways and I have worked in it too with good people), but my experience of neuroleptic medication has been like an internal dungeon, one that seemed to make me distant to life’s fullness and presence. And the experience in some (quite few) hostile minds of being trans would also seek to deny a sense of such freedom. Though I try to be mindful of different ways of looking at this it seems interesting that some are not at all respectful of those trying to work their way of being out.
But overall I often feel we’re so busy defining life with all our taxonomies and knowledge we lose how we cut ourselves off from its roots.
So these ideas seem quite foreign from much of our day to day, or mine in some ways. Socially and politically they seem something relevant to DAO and beyond. It occurred to me that it is the very opposite to a psychology of ‘Nudge Units’ and behavioural prompting that is based in profiles of how we already are and seek to maintain and exploit that in their echo chambers, not tell us we are more or able to be different, untrapped. We almost seem to have moved towards trying to reverse some aspects of the Reformation – or so it can sometimes seem, away from personal dialogues with much and in a world where the media offers to tell us what we need to know for the day. Artists being a group that tend to like to work that out for themselves I think maybe I generalise. And of course what we say far removed from the world of those that ‘know’. Maybe I start to go too far, but then the breakdown of the post war consensus has led to debate being dominated by
the right which has brought us so many of these ideas.
what you need to know today . . .
is that i wonder
how anyone could know what i need to know
why they would tell me like that, in a headline,
whether there is anything they’d like me to think
whether they just want me to accept they know best
if the momentum of the Reformation is being reversed
whether (some of) the media wish to be priests
and why it is that i am being polite
(A. H/ K. H-H (16th January 2020) published on my A Blind Catch In The Sun blog.
Maybe it’s just I am clutching for grace.